This month, it’s personal
Celebrating and remembering “A Great Love.”
No matter what Mr. Webster may tell you, cancer is a four letter word.
It is a word so powerful that when spoken immediately changes the tone of a conversation. It is a word so awful that you feel as if you’ve uttered the most fowl word in the Urban Dictionary. Some might argue that by not saying it, crossing your fingers, and being the best version of yourself, that maybe somehow, the “word that shall not be spoken,” can be avoided altogether. Never in my life did I think this word would affect my family so immensely that it physically hurts to say it aloud.
When you’re young, you think you are invincible and have so much time on this planet, only to find yourself, if you’re lucky, years older wondering where that time went. There was one person I was lucky to love, however, that wholeheartedly lived her life this way, everyday – my selfless and gorgeous aunt, April Willetts.
My aunt was 18 when I was born. She and my uncle were having the time of their lives, but they always made time for me. They would wake me up from naps to play with me. They treated me to the coolest toys and experiences like I was their own child. I was lucky enough to be a flower girl in their wedding. As I grew up and my sister and cousins came along, we spent so much time together that we were more like siblings than cousins. And we are still lucky enough to be able to say that today. My aunt and uncle would take us all on road trips to amusement parks, malls, movies, and restaurants. We would sing at the top of our lungs in the car, camp out in the yard, and go swimming. I think I am one of the lucky ones to be able to say that I truly have the best relationship with my aunt and uncle.
My aunt was the type of woman who lived and loved unapologetically. She made time for the people she cared about and was always available to lend a helping hand. She exuded an aura of calm in any situation and it would feel effortless to sit down and talk to her for honest and unbiased advice. Kind to everyone she met, an incredible cook, ridiculously beautiful inside and out, and extremely intelligent are just a few of her amazing qualities. She also had the best sense of humor and had enough confidence to laugh at herself. I think her favorite and most accomplished roles were as a wife and mother because they came so genuinely to her.
Watching her love my daughter with everything she had was the sweetest experience. Her love for the simple and non-material things in life was beautiful to witness. All she needed in life were her family and friends.
To think now I am writing about my aunt in past tense is unfathomable. I can’t understand why she isn’t on this earth to talk to, share photos and laughs, ask for advice, and just give one giant hug to. Even though she had different plans for her life, she was called to a better place sooner than anyone would have imagined.
In September of 2019, my aunt was suffering from severe abdominal pain and decided to go to the hospital to find out what was wrong. That day her life --and the lives of everyone that loved her -- would never be the same. She was given a cancer diagnosis in two areas of her body. Never one to catch a common cold, this was impossible. She had no prior symptoms or warnings. Rather than crumbling, she rose to the diagnosis and prepared for battle. Her positivity for the fight of her life was contagious. She would snap us out sadness because her mind was set on a positive path. She handled test after test, multiple diagnoses, chemotherapy, and the rollercoaster of emotions with grace.
My Aunt April never truly let on to how lousy she was feeling during treatments and would push through to cook for her family, stay on top of her workload, have gatherings at her house or do her best to attend an event because she wanted life to feel as normal as possible. I’ve never seen someone with so much determination and positivity. When the cancer spread and was no longer responding to treatment, I remember the phone call with her vividly where she said that even though her body wasn’t fine, she was. She told her family that she had no regrets about her life and truly lived a beautiful and full life.
In her last days, she was able to spend her precious time with the people she loved most and tell everyone how much they meant to her. I am grateful that we were able to have these moments as this is something some individuals are denied. Her beautiful soul left this world on July 9, 2020. She was only 51.
Her battle was much shorter than anyone anticipated, but she fought with every ounce of love, energy, and determination. Her life is one that will never be forgotten.
I recently came across a quote that reads “Grief is the last act of love we have …Where there is deep grief, there was great love.”
I can honestly say that Aunt April loved with a great love towards everyone and everything she did. Her life will not be defined by cancer, but by how she treated people and how she lived her life. She made positive impacts on the lives of so many. She will be missed dearly, but I know that there were bigger plans for her and that she’ll always be with us in one way or another.